Where to go and what to see in NYC

NEW YORK CITY is more fun when you know what the joke is, and the joke is that living well is the best revenge. Whether for you that means nonstop Broadway shows or eight-hour vigils in art galleries, take a large bite while you’re in the Big Apple, the way the natives do.

GROUND TRANSPORTATION FROM AIRPORTS: Carey Transportation buses run from LaGuardia ($3.50) and John F. Kennedy airports ($5) to the East Side Airlines Terminal at First Avenue and 37th Street. The easiest way, of course, is to take a taxi directly to your destination (fares to mid-town average $13 from LaGuardia and $25 from JFK. Be wary of “taxi hustlers” who hang out at JFK and the airlines terminal and lead visitors to shared taxis that overcharge outrageously. At these locations, get in the taxi lines controlled by starters and pay only what the meter reads.

TAXIS: The good old days of the dependable cabby are on the way out. For your own protection, be sure the driver starts the meter before you set out. It’s also a good idea to know exactly where you’re going and how to get there, because your driver might not.

LIMOUSINES: For $20 to $35 an hour you can ride in a chauffeured sedan or limousine. Many limo services charge flat rates for rides to and from airports and theaters. Select a service near your pickup or delivery point, because the travel time from the garage is added to the hourly charge. Here are several limo possibilities: Carey Cadillac (41 E. 42nd St., 599-1122) has competitive rates. Fugazy Continental (618 W. 49th St., 247-5800) does, too, but no flat airport or theater rate. Surrey Cadillac Limousine Service (4138 Crescent St., Long Island City, Queens; 937-5700) is located at a distance, but its flat rate to Kennedy ($38) and the theater ($65) are low.

BUS AND SUBWAY: Stay out of subways during peak weekday rush hours (8 to 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 to 6 p.m.) and after 10 p.m. – and at all other times, too, if you’re squeamish. On buses, you’ll feel safer, but beware of pickpockets. Fares: 75 cents (exact change) or a token (purchase in subway station).

SIGHTS; VIEWS FROM THE TOP: Let’s assume you’ve been to the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center and the Statue of Liberty. But have you taken in the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the tallest buildings in New York? The observation deck at the top and the gallery on the 107th floor of 2 World Trade Center are open until 9:30 p.m. Or you can catch the view from Windows on the World (1 World Trade Center, 938-1111), where the Saturday and Sunday luncheon buffets are among the more civilized pleasures of the city.

TOURS: If you’re going to be near the financial district on a weekday, the New York Stock Exchange (20 Broad St., 623-5168), which has renovated its visitors gallery and presentation, may be of interest. The American Stock Exchange (78 Trinity Place, 938-2464) also has people prepared to explain what’s happening on the trading floor from a gallery overlooking the action. Also worthwhile are guided tours of the United Nations (First Avenue between 45th and 46th streets, 754-7713) and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (Broadway at 64th Street, 877-1800). For information on other specialized tours, check with the Convention & Visitors Bureau (2 Columbus Circle, 397-8222).

CULTURE BUS LOOPS (330-1234): Available on Saturdays, Sundays and most holidays, these are the biggest bargains in town. They cost $1.25, and you can get on and off at stops as often as you like. Bus Loop 1 covers midtown and uptown Manhattan (passing many major museums, the Empire State Building, the United Nations and Central Park). Bus Loop II goes to Brooklyn and down Manhattan (via Chinatown, the fjnancial district and the Lower East Side).

ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT; MUSEUMS: One good way for visitors to get the most out of museums in New York is to avoid mob scenes. Skip busy weekends unless you can arrive when the doors open. Evenings are usually less crowded. Admission is waived Tuesday nights at the Whitney, Guggenheim and Cooper-Hewitt.

The newest exhibition area in town is at the Asia Society (725 Park Ave., 288-6400); its quarters were inspired by the ancient palaces of Mogul, India. Selections from the permanent collection of John D. Rockefeller III are upstairs; visiting shows are downstairs.

At the International Center of Photography (1130 Fifth Ave., 860-1777) you can see what the best in the field are up to, and at the Museum of Holography (11 Mercer St., 925-0526) you can find out what the three-dimensional laser beam images are all about.

Americana is hot, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street, 535-7710) has its share in its gradually unfolding American Wing, which will eventually house all of the museum’s remarkable American collections. The first phase of the reinstallation of its Far Eastern art is also in place, including the much-discussed Astor Court, a Ming Dynasty scholar’s court reconstructed by Chinese craftsmen imported for the project. Another Diana Vreeland blockbuster, “The Eighteenth Century Woman,” is a must-see (through September 5).

THEATER: It’s wise to order tickets for Broadway shows well in advance by mail or phone or through Ticketron. Even if you’ve been told the show is sold-out, go to the box office when you get to New York; tickets have been known to become available at the last minute. Every day in the Daily News and Fridays in the Times there’s a tip sheet of Broadway ticket availability.

For reduced-price tickets: The Information Centers of the New York Convention & Visitors Bureau (2 Columbus Circle and at 42nd Street between Seventh Avenue and Broadway) frequently have twofers, which can be exchanged at box offices for half-price tickets. At the Duffy Square tkts booth (Broadway at 47th Street), same-day tickets to even the best shows are sold at half-price, starting at noon for matinees, 3 p.m. for evening performances.

Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway can sometimes be more fun than the Great White Way. Joseph Papp’s Public Theater (425 Lafayette St., 598-7150), the source of A Chorus Line and Hair, runs a multimedia smorgasbord of new plays, avant-garde films and far-out jazz. Half-price tickets are available at the box office before performances. The Manhattan Theater Club (321 E. 73rd St., 472-0600), LaMaMa Experimental Theater Club (74A E. Fourth St., 475-7710), the Circle Repertory Company (99 Seventh Ave., 924-7100), Playwrights Horizons (406 W. 42nd St., 279-4200) and other repertory companies and theater clubs can be counted on for provocative performances.

MUSIC: Popular tickets sell out fast in New York. Some opera lovers come just for the Metropolitan Opera (Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, Broadway at 65th Street, 580-9830). But if you don’t have a subscription, you can order seats a month in advance.

FREE ENTERTAINMENT: The best street musicians and mimes are likely to be on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum, the fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel and in the streets of SoHo. Free entertainment in the soaring Atrium of the Citicorp Center (53rd Street and Lexington Avenue, 559-4259), New York’s urban shopping mall, is an everyday event -with weekday pop concerts at 6 p.m., Saturday programs for kids at 11 a.m., Saturday jazz at 8 p.m. and Sunday classical concerts at 1 p.m.

For tickets to television shows, try the Convention & Visitors Bureau (2 Columbus Circle, 397-8222), hotels or network offices. Or write, well in advance, to the ticket division of the appropriate TV network: CBS (524 W. 57th St., 975-2476), NBC (30 Rockefeller Plaza, 664-4444) or ABC (36 W. 66th St., 887-7777).

DINING OUT: We all know about the biggies where the patrons are the attraction, not the food- places such as “21” Club (21 W. 52nd St., 582-7200) and Elaine’s (1703 Second Ave., 534-8103). But you don’t have to have inferior food to attract the rich and powerful. The Four Seasons (99 E. 52nd St., 754-9494) is a case in point; as is the Russian Tea Room (150 W. 57th., 265-0947).

There are a number of bars and restaurants that have a moment of glory for one crowd or another before suddenly being abandoned. Some of the ones currently favored: Models and media biggies (Clay Felker, George Plimpton) have discovered Nicola’s (146 E. 84th St., 249-9850), a neighborhood saloon run by a former employee of Elaine’s. Jim McMullen’s (1341 Third Ave. ,861-4700) is celebrity heaven-an art noveau, exposed-brick magnet for beautiful people. Two sleek, upper-East Side hangouts of the chic offer more exciting food: Hoexter’s Market (1442 Third Ave., 472-9322) and its next-door offshoot, Uzies (1444 Third Ave., 744-8020).

SERIOUS EATING: These restaurants are among the best that New York has to offer: La Grenouille (3 E. 52nd St., 752-1495), Lut?ce (249 E. 50th St., 752-2225), La Cote Basque (5 E. 55th St., 688-6525), La Caravelle (33 W. 55th St., 586-4252) and a relative newcomer, Le Chantilly (106 E. 57th St., 751-2931). Other interesting French choices: for simple country cooking, La Petite Ferme (973 Lexington Ave., 249-3272); for nouvelle cuisine, the austere and elegant Restaurant Raphael (33 W. 54th St., 582-8993); and, for exuberance and class, La Tulipe (104 W. 13th St., 691-8860).

Some of the hottest Italian restaurants are Parioli Romanissimo (1466 First Ave., 288-2391), Il Nido (251 E. 53rd St., 753-8450) and Salta in Bocca (179 Madison Ave. near 34th Street, 684-1757). A couple of popular and less expensive places to eat Italian: Ballato (55 E. Houston St. near Mott Street, 226-9683) and DaSilvano (260 Sixth Ave., 982-0090).

THEATER DISTRICT PACKAGES: The the-ater-district eateries seem to be either theatrical hangouts or passable but not distinguished restaurants. The first on any hangout list – legendary, photo-lined Sar-di’s (234 W. 44th St., 221-8440)-is still the place where the first-night parties are given and big theatrical deals are made at lunch. Dinner and supper belong to performers and theater-goers. At Joe Allen (326 W. 46th St., 581-6464), an unpretentious saloon, the waiters and waitresses are out-of-work actors, and the place is packed with their friends and theatergoers. Caf坢 Un Deux Trois (123 W. 44th St., 354-4148) is a good place for coucous or a glass of wine in a seedy, barn-like room. Ted Hook’s Backstage (318 W. 45th St., 581-8447) seems to be holding its loyal following of Broadway show people.

Ren坢 Pujol (321 W. 51st St., 246-3023) is still one of the better choices for country French food at decent prices. And the after-theater buffet in the Algonquin, Hotel lobby and the Rose Room (59 W. 44th St., 840-6800) continues to be one of the more agreeable pleasures of the theater district -a bountiful board from which you can select supper or just dessert (and park your car free for the evening).

NIGHTLIFE; UNWINDING: One of the nicest customs of European hotels – afternoon tea or cocktails in the lobby at the end of the day – is being expanded in New York beyond the fabled Palm Court at the Plaza (Fifth Avenue at 59th Street, 759-3000) and the lobby of the Algonquin (59 W. 44th St., 840-6800). One of the most charming of the new settings is the plant-and light-filled atrium of the Berkshire Place (Madison Avenue at 52nd Street, 753-5800), where a harpist adds another soothing note. In the Parker Meridien lobby (119 W. 56th St., 245-5000) the high ceiling, sleek furniture and piano music create a cooler chic.

DISCO AND ROCK CLUBS: Remember roller disco and regular disco? Well, they’re still alive, but barely. Studio 54 (254 W. 54th St., 489-7667) has reopened, but the paparazzi and the old crowd say Studio is just not the same anymore. Xenon (124 W. 43rd St., 221-2690) has been taken over by the glitterati during the interregnum.

In the ascendance are new-wave and rock-dance clubs with live performances. The action starts about midnight and ends about 4 a.m. or later. The Underground (860 Broadway at 17th Street, 254-4005) is trendy and uninhibited. The Ritz (119 E. 11th St., 254-2800) is a huge barn that attracts huge crowds and, occasionally, name performers. Peppermint Lounge (128 W. 45th St., 719-3176)-wall-to-wall rock, punk and post-punk -is reminiscent of the old rock days.

CABARETt: The once-popular SoHo Ballroom has reopened as the New Ballroom (253 W. 28th St., 244-3005) with headline performers. Marty’s (1265 Third Ave., 249-4100) is an opulent showcase for stylish singers. Tramps (125 E. 15th St., 777-5077), a self-styled “premier blues room” that is smoky and jolly, also books rock and reggae. At the Cookery (21 University Place at Eighth Street, 674-4450), venerable blues singer Alberta Hunter is the attraction. The St. Regis-Sheraton (Fifth Avenue at 55th Street, 753-4500) is offering a series of tributes to Broadway composers in the refurbished King Cole room.

JAZZ: The Village Vanguard (178 Seventh Ave., 255-4037), the famous bare-bones jazz club, is still the most prestigious venue in town. The more elegant Fat Tuesday’s (190 Third Ave., 533-7902) is also known for booking first-rate jazz talent. Also: Sweet Basil (88 Seventh Ave., 242-1785), which is always crowded with serious jazz fans; the Other End (149 Bleecker St., 673-7030); Michael’s Pub (211 E. 55th St., 758-2272), where Woody Allen often toots the clarinet with his group on Monday nights; and Blue Note (131 W. Third St., 475-8592), a new, svelte club.

COUNTRY & WESTERN: Lone Star Caf坢 (61 Fifth Ave., 242-1664) is where New York’s hard-core Texas transplants go for hot chili and cool country music. City Limits (125 Seventh Ave., 243-2242) seems to attract drugstore cowboys out for a good time.

HOTELS: American Stanhope (995 Fifth Ave., 288-5800). This charming old hotel, across the street from the Metropolitan Museum, has rooms decorated with antique furniture and art ($120-$ 160 per night).

Berkshire Place (21 E. 52nd St., 753-5800). The Dunfeys have made the old Berkshire into a small, sophisticated European-style hotel offering generous, high-ceilinged rooms with sitting areas ($125-$165).

Halloran House (525 Lexington Ave. at 49th Street, 755-4000). More personal than most commercial hotels, but some rooms are quite small in this Old English manse recreated from the Shelton Towers ($93-$123).

Harley of New York (212 E. 42nd St., 490-8900). Down at the quieter end of 42nd Street, the new Harley, run by the Helmsleys, has comfortable, cheerful rooms and a competent staff ($105-$160).

Helmsley Palace (455 Madison Ave. at 50th Street, 883-7000). A marriage of the restored neo-Italian Renaissance Villard Houses and a 51-story glass tower of posh guest rooms and suites ($135-$200).

Parker Meridien (118 W. 57th St. 245-5000). A crisply modern French-run luxury hotel whose workers bend over backward to please. Swimming pool, jogging track and racquet club ($115-$180).

Regency Hotel (Park Avenue at 61st Street, 795-4100). The darling of guests who love its continental service, ambiance and rooms featuring period pieces and pale colors ($135-$200).

United Nations Plaza Hotel (1 UN Plaza at 44th Street and First Avenue, 355-3400). Although not new, this chic hotel, with its striking modern design, elegant rooms, swimming pool and tennis court, still seems as fresh as when it ushered in the current New York hotel era ($135 and $155).

Not new or renovated, but good buys: The St. Moritz (50 Central Park South, 755-5800), which has a great location in a fashionable neighborhood and rooms that are modern and spacious ($90-$ 120); the genteel Plaza (Fifth Avenue at 59th Street, still legendary after all these years ($125-$250); and the Waldorf-Astoria (301 Park Ave. at 50th Street; 355-3000), art deco stopping-off place of world-class visitors ($105-$185).

SHOPPING; classy clothing: There is no end to wonderful stores for women’s clothes. For a start, here are the big three B’s of specialty shops (all have departments for men): Henri Bendel (10 W. 57th St., 247-1100), Bergdorf Goodman (754 Fifth Ave., 753-7500) and Bloomingdale’s (1000 Third Ave., 233-7111). For classy men’s clothing: Barney’s (Seventh Avenue at 17th Street, 929-9000), where you can make an appointment for a visit (one floor is for women); A. Sulka (711 Fifth Ave., 980-5200), offering custom and off-the-peg stuff; and Brooks Brothers (346 Madison Ave. at 44th Street, 682-8800), featuring preppy classics (for women, too).

JEWELRY: The diamond center (47th Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues) is the place to get rock-bottom prices on gems, antique jewelry and standard lines, but be sure you have an educated eye before you buy. Among the dozen fashionable shops for exclusive designs and fashionable labels: Cartier (Fifth Avenue at 52nd Street, 753-0111) and Tiffany & Company (727 Fifth Ave., 755-8000).

ONE-OF-A-KIND PLACES: Judi Buie Boot Shop (225 E. 60th St., on the second floor of Serendipity, 838-3531), where Texans order custom-made boots – and it has ready-made selections, too; Hammacher Schlemmer (147 E. 57th St., 421-9000), gadget heaven for your home, boat or airplane; FAO Schwarz (Fifth Avenue at 58th Street, 664-9400), the Tiffany’s of toy stores, which has added a Casino Corner and a New York souvenir counter for adults; Steuben Glass (715 Fifth Ave., 752-1441), offering etched crystal for state gifts and for collectors; Ad Hoc House-wares (842 Lexington Ave. at 64th Street, 752-5488), the original high-tech source in New York; and Hunting World (16 East 53rd St., 755-3400), whose label – whether on camera bag or parka – is tops in status.

SOHO SHOPPING: The variety of originalideas and junk, of exuberance and exhibitionism can make a SoHo junket a mind-altering experience. Many shopkeepersdon’t take credit cards. Don’t come beforenoon or on Mondays, but on workdaysthe shops stay open until 7 p.m. Some possibilities: Dean & DeLuca (121 Prince St.,266-4206), food and cookware; Urban Archaeology (137 Spring St., 431-6969),everything from gargoyles to doorknobs,much of it saved from the wrecker’s ball;Art wear (409 W. Broadway, 431-9405),glamorous art jewelry; and Let There BeNeon (451 W. Broadway, 473-7370),sculpture and useful objects, ready-madeand to-order. For antique clothing, tryPentimenti (126 Prince St., 226-4354);Victoria Falls (147 Spring St., 226-5099),and Harriet Love (412 W. Broadway;966-2280).


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